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Birds decreasing in �suicide spot� Jatinga

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, July 20 - Dima Hasao district�s Jatinga village, known the world over as the �suicide spot� of birds, may lose the tag as the number of winged guests flying into the place has reduced drastically over the past few years. �Bird arrival is very scarce these days at Jatinga and the number of birds being killed by villagers has also come down,� eminent ornithologist Anwaruddin Choudhury told PTI.

Choudhury, dubbed the �Birdman of Assam�, has done field surveys to understand the mysterious behaviour of the avian species in the tiny hamlet nestled in the North Cachar Hills near Haflong.

Bikash Brahma, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Dima Hasao, also agreed, saying, not only killings but also the number of birds arriving at the village has been declining gradually since the last few years. �Earlier birds were killed but due to the awareness campaign run by the forest department such incidents have reduced substantially now,� he said.

The birds are drawn by light typically produced by a combination of fog, mist and cloud during the months of September-October during moonless nights. After reaching the village they get disoriented and unable to fly they hit the walls and fall easy prey to hunters who attack them with bamboo poles. This phenomenon is often wrongly known as suicide by birds.

Explaining the reason behind the decrease, Choudhury said that habitat loss in the nearby areas of Borail range was responsible. �The jhum cultivation area has increased leading to loss of forests. Developmental activities and environment degradation have led to decrease in the population of birds,� the expert said.

Although the behaviour of the birds has been scientifically explained by ornithologists, it is still believed in many quarters that birds fly into Jatinga to commit suicide. �It is a misnomer to say it is the suicide spot of birds. The tag has remained because tourists get attracted to see the phenomenon. And then there is little awareness among the masses,� Choudhury said.

The birds, who get affected by this phenomenon, are mostly juvenile. �Jatinga has a deep gorge which creates a funnel effect. Once the winds subside most birds return safely to their roosting site if they are not killed or get injured by hitting against walls,� he said.

The mysterious behaviour of birds has made Jatinga a birdwatcher�s paradise. �After waiting at the watchtower for 2-3 nights you might spot a flock coming to your side. It is fun to watch those young birds flying very close to you. They appear nervous and directionless,� he said. Some of the bird species spotted are Little Egret, Hill Partridge, Green pigeon, Emerald Dove, Necklaced Laughing Thrust, black drongo, various types of kingfishers, etc.

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