Mya Rose Craig The Bird Girl

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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: Whether a species is a bird or mammal is not dependent on whether it can fly but on its scientific status. Ostrich’s have become non flying because this has benefits in its habitat for food and breeding and they still retain the remnants of flight feathers. Mammals generally give birth to live young whilst birds, fish and amphibians lay eggs.
Q: Why  birds fly south for the winter?
Mya: Many birds fly south for the winter to Bangladesh as they are looking for a warmer climate to live in during the winter. So for example, the very rare Spoon-billed Sandpiper breeds in the Russian Siberian Tundra in the summer before migrating south to Bangladesh for the winter. This is also true of birds that come to the UK during the summer, such as Barn Swallow, which come to the UK in spring, breed, before flying south in the autumn to Africa to escape our harsh winter.
Q: There was a time when birds ruled the world. There is no calculation of how many species of birds there were. But now that number is decreasing day by day. Many species of birds are endangered. Who is responsible for this? How do you think this extinction can be prevented?

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.

The main change needed to save our birds is for big changes in the law, protecting birds and punishment of those who break the law. First we need to fund research into the reasons for the decline of different species and then what laws are needed to protect habitats and birds. Some of the issues will also impact on the increased risks of flooding.
Q: We know you are the youngest person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol in 2020. So now we call you Dr. Maya Rose Craig. I would like to hear your feeling when you find out that you will be awarded a doctorate degree. 

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.

It was incredible to be awarded something so fantastic & being the youngest British person to receive an honorary Doctorate of Science D.Sc. h.c. It was all really exciting, going onto The One Show a popular BBC chat show and doing lots of interviews. At the ceremony, the university made me feel like a real VIP. There were lots of TV camera crews who came and it was amazing to see them cram into see me.
I think it’s only as I get older and am at Cambridge University myself that I understand how enormous it was to be given an honorary doctorate at age 17.
I am really proud of being an Ambassador for Greenpeace and Oxfam amongst others.
Q: From Chew vally School to St. John’s College, Cambridge University.This is the journey of  your education life, how have you prepared yourself at this time?
Mya:The Chew Valley is made up of a few villages outside of Bristol. It is a really small area and I knew most of the people in my year at school. I had been attending lots of events and speaking, so I was a lot more outward looking than many people at school. I had a gap year planned between 6th form and university when I had planned to travel and spend time in Sylhet. However, due to covid-19 I was unable to travel, so instead wrote 3 books and went to the Arctic with Greenpeace. That was an incredible experience and allowed me to highlight the terrible impact climate change is having on the Arctic and so the planet.

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.

My second book is called Birdgirl and is a memoir about birding around the world as s child, how our love of birds helped our mental health and about becoming an activist. I am really proud of this book, which is available from Amazon.com and which I hope will one day be published in Bengali.
My last book is a large illustrated children’s book about bird migration called Flight.
Q: Since you are a British-Bangladeshi, we think you have learned Bengali as well as English. Can you speak Bengali as well as you can speak English? What language do you speak with your parents at home?
Mya: My Nanu lives in Bristol and has one brother living on one side and another brother on the other side. When I was a child, until I started school age 4 years old, one of my Nanis looked after me and one of my cousins. So I was surrounded by Sylheti and programmes on Channel S. When I started school, I was totally bi- lingual in English and Sylheti but I suddenly felt very self conscious about speaking Sylheti and refused to speak it. I think it’s really sad that my sister can speak Sylheti but not me. I had planned to spend 6 months in Sylhet during my year off but had to cancel due to covid-19 but now plan is to stay in Sylhet after I graduate and learn to start speaking Sylheti again. I think it a shame that my cousins who are my age can’t speak Sylheti either but things are harder as we are third generation British-Bangladeshi and the first generation in our family all speak good English and so we don’t have the need to learn.
Q: Now what is your advice for those who are young and love birds like you? And what is your message to those who hunt, sell, or capture birds?
Mya: My message is to all Bangladeshi’s, whether they are interested in birds or not; birds are fantastic, they can fly, so how incredible is that? What is there not to like about them? Try taking a closer look at the wonderful birds of Bangladesh and understand how important they are to humankind. Stand up and protect the birds of our beautiful world. Point your finger at those who are harming our birds and try to make them understand the harm they are doing to all of us. To those who kill or capture birds, your business will end soon as bird species disappear. Why don’t you stop now and become bird guides, showing Bangladeshi and foreign birdwatchers or bird photographers the birds in your area, using your bird sighting skills for birdwatching?
Dr Mya-Rose Craig
D.Sc. h.c.
Founder & President Black2Nature Twitter @officialb2n
www.birdgirluk.com Twitter @BirdgirlUK 
Instagram @birdgirluk