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No. 57: May-Jun 1988

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Mysterious Bird Deaths

"An eight-year study by Indian zoologists has failed to establish why birds commit suicide year after year at the small village of Jatinga in the northeastern state of Assam.

"Attracted by the lights, birds converge on Jatinga at night and on landing become immobile, stop feeding and starve. They neither resist capture nor try to fly away."

The mysterious phenomenon dates back to 1905. It peaks in September and October, as the monsoon season wanes, with as many as 500 birds, from some 36 species, dying each night. The birds alight at the same spot each year -- a one-kilometer stretch in the town. No one can account for the selection of this precise spot or for the dazed condition of the birds. (Jayaraman, K.S.; "Mystery of Bird Deaths in Assam," Nature, 331:556, 1988.)

From Science Frontiers #57, MAY-JUN 1988. � 1988-2000 William R. Corliss