Mya Rose Craig is known around the world as Bird Girl. She is also an ornithologist and author. At the age of 17, She became the youngest British Bangladeshi person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol. Teenagers now publishing her exclusive interview.
Q:We know that birds fly in the sky without just ostriches. Now the question is why the ostrich is called a bird even though it cannot fly?
Mya: There has been a dramatic decline of birds all over the world in the last 30 years. For example, in Europe there are 400 million fewer grassland birds. In Bangladesh, there are tiny numbers of birds left. When my mum visited her paternal family village in Sunamgonj in the 1970’s they were shooting huge numbers of water birds including Boks and Bogla that would not be good to eat. As people’s wealth has increased, more people can afford guns leading to indiscriminate killing of birds. The main reason for the huge decline of birds in Bangladesh is due to hunting with guns and nets, destruction of habitat such as cutting down trees, draining marshland & wetlands and the lack of protection of birds by the government.
Mya: In December 2019, I received an email from someone at Bristol University telling me that they would like to give me an honorary degree and attached a letter from the Pro-Vice Chancellor. I was so shocked that I thought it was a hoax from one of my friends so I didn’t click on the attachment until my mum had phoned the university and found out it was a real offer.
Q: Do all birds migrate? If not all birds migrate, why do some migrate?
Mya: Most birds do not migrate but live in the same place all the year around. There is variation within the same species. For example, in the UK, some blackcaps, song thrushes and robins migrate but other do not. It depends on food and resources.
Q: You are an ornithologist. What is it actually? I want to know the details about this.
Mya: An ornithologist is someone who has studied birds for science. I have studied the science of birds since I was 9 years old, obtaining my licence to ring birds from the British Trust for Ornithology at 16 years old, which is the youngest age possible to obtain a licence in the UK. Bird ringing is when you catch birds in delicate nets, then carefully remove and examine them, taking measurements and weighting them before releasing them. I had to have a very detailed knowledge of birds ID before I could even start the training to obtain my trainee licence. I have done lots of bird ringing demonstrations and find that children and adults love to see the birds close up and even getting to hold or release them.
Q: How did your love for birds come about? Why do you love birds so much instead of other animals ?
Mya: My parents and older sister Ayesha loved birds and went out birdwatching all the time. When I was born, they carried on but just taking baby me with them. When I was 3, Ayesha was 15 years old and was obsessed with birds but also very beautiful and very cool. I wanted to be like her and so if she loved birds, I was going to love birds too. I was also good at bird ID and got a lot of pleasure from watching them.
Q: If there were no more birds on earth, just like the dinosaurs became extinct. In that case, what do you think what type of damage will have to face the world?
Mya: If birds became extinct this would have a drastic impact on our planet as nature relies on them and so in turn do we. For example, hummingbirds in South America and sunbirds in Asia use their long bills to feed on nectar and in turn pollinate flowers and food crops. Fruit eating birds often spread the seeds in their droppings. The planet has developing over millions of years, with each species having a place in the world, so extinctions have a huge impact on our environment and ultimately on us.
Q: You are a writer. We want to know how many books you have published and what their names are. What are your published books written about? Will you publish your book in Bengali?
Mya: I have been writing blog posts for my website and articles since I was 11 years old. During the Covid-19 pandemic I had a year off as a gap year between school and university and I wrote 3 books. The first was published by Magic Cat, a small sustainable publisher. It was called We Have A Dream and in it I interviewed and highlighted the work of 30 young environmentalists of colour from around the world. It came out in August 2021 and was beautifully illustrated. This book was really important to me, amplifying the voices of young people who are otherwise not heard as the environmental movement in the Global North is very White and mainly only promotes people who are White.
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