Sarah Orne Jewett uses Sylvia's interest in birds to advance the plot when we learn that the visiting hunter's priority is locating the nest belonging to the white heron he's seen in the woods. On the night he arrives, Sylvia's grandmother tells him that "'the wild creatur's counts her one o' themselves. Squer'ls she'll tame to come an' feed right out o' her hands, and all sorts o' birds.'" The hunter didn't even attend to the personal information Mrs. Tilley shared because of "his eager interest in something else. 'So Sylvy knows all about birds, does she?' he exclaimed." Thus, Sylvia's knowledge of the birds makes her useful to the hunter, and so he prolongs his visit with her and her grandmother in an attempt to put her knowledge to use for him. Were it not for her interest in and knowledge of the birds, he would likely not have stayed with them as long as he does. He proceeds to charm her, offering her trinkets and even money in an attempt to win her over and get her to tell him where the heron makes its nest, and this series of interactions furthers the plot and introduces the conflict of the story.