The story is structured as a bildungsroman or rite of passage story. Sylvia is challenged by her feelings for the hunter to leave the world of innocence for that of experience. She has already rejected city life once, and when confronted with betraying her friends the birds to please a stranger, she remains loyal to her feathered companions.
The story is both celebrated and criticized for its changes of perspective dictated by the changes in point of view which Jewett used. There is an omniscient narrator, which provides an in depth view of events, but the changes from past to present tense are the techniques which add most vibrancy to the story.
Laid out in two parts, the story offers the reader an insight into the challenge faced by Sylvia in Part 1, and her decision to retain her pantheistic lifestyle in Part 2.
Sylvia cannot speak; she cannot tell the heron's secret and give its life away.