What is the white heron's secret in the short story "A White Heron"?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The white heron's secret is where his nest is hidden.  The young man, who is an ornithologist, would like to shoot him and add his graceful figure to his collection.  When Sylvia first discovered the white heron's resting place in the marsh, she had planned on telling the young man where the heron's nest lay, but when he pressed her for an answer, all she could remember was "how the white heron came flying through the golden air and how they watched the sea and the morning together."  In the moment of truth, Sylvia finds that she cannot speak at all, despite her admiration for her new friend or her grandmother's pleading to help them make ten dollars; she cannot "tell the heron's secret and trade his life away."