STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — In his State College living room, Cyrus Klingsberg shares his knowledge about birds.

“My bird list goes back to the 1930s,” Klingsberg said. “So I don’t know how many birds are on it, but well over 100 and they come from all over the world.”

Birdwatching is a lifelong passion the 97-year-old discovered when he was just a kid.

Cyrus & Vera Klingsberg

“I used to observe birds in my parent’s backyard and I enjoyed them,” Klingsberg explained. “I enjoy the color and I enjoyed the sense of freedom. I think what drew me to them was the fact that they could fly away in any direction at any time, that appealed to me most.”

Klingsberg fell in love with the hobby before falling in love with his wife, Vera, who learned to share his same passion.

“Gradually she developed an interest and I would say in later years she was perhaps more avid than I was,” he told us. “She did work for various bird groups, including publishing an article on birdwatching.”

The two would take trips all over to look at birds.

“We would take binoculars and a book,” Klingsberg said. “That is all you need.”

Some destinations were far away and others were close by. They were frequent visitors of Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Petersburg.

Klingsberg makes donation to Shaver’s Creek
Credit: Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

“What annoyed me to no end was that when we mentioned it to friends and colleagues, they didn’t know what we were talking about,” Klingsberg expressed. “Shaver’s Creek simply wasn’t well known.”

In memory and honor of his late wife, Klingsberg made a recent donation of $250,000 to Shaver’s Creek in hopes of getting more people to the environmental center.

“So I thought that if I gave a gift to Shaver’s Creek it might increase their visibility in some fashion,” Klingsberg said.

The aviary, now donning the Klingsberg’s last name, is sharing Vera’s love for birds with future generations.

Jason Beale, the animal care program director at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, said Klingsberg’s gift helps to build and sustain the aviary, which is built to protect birds who can’t protect themselves in the wild.

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Klingsberg with Matilda, his favorite bird to visit at the aviary
Credit: Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

“Obviously taking care of animals is very resource intensive,” Beale explained. “It requires a lot of money and a lot of staff time so that financial component is huge. To have someone in the community that cares enough about avian conservation education like Cyrus and to help really enable this work that we do, it’s just a great validation of the importance of community engagement here at Shaver’s Creek, but also I think how much the community supports us as well.”

Klingsberg is making it a point to give back to the community that has helped support him. It brings him joy just like his favorite bird, a chickadee.

“Every time I see one, I immediately break into a smile because they surround themselves with happiness,” Klingsberg said.

Now he is hoping others find that same happiness by continuing to share a passion for birds all in honor of his wife.

Klingsberg said another reason he made this donation was to say thank you to Penn State University. He went there for grad school and credits the university for doing more for his personal career than any other college he studied at.

According to the website, the Klingsberg Aviary is home to a variety of birds including hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, and falcons. Matilda, the center’s black vulture, is Klingsberg’s favorite to visit at the aviary.

If you know someone or an organization that’s making it matter in our community, send an email to msmolka@wtajtv.com or reach out on Facebook.