(noun) A specialized term for a young owl, typically a recently hatched bird that has not yet developed its full mature plumage and is still dependent on its parents. Owlets are typically unable to fly but may have left the nest to strengthen their wings and legs by exploring nearby branches or rocks. These young birds have a great deal of down and generally lack distinct markings, but their facial disks are one of the first plumage features to develop and can be highly instrumental in proper owlet identification.
Mature parent owls can be highly protective of their owlets and have been known to viciously attack anything they perceive as a threat, including other birds, large mammals and even humans. Birders should always be cautious when watching owlets and keep their distance to avoid stressing the young birds or antagonizing their parents.
The term owlet is also part of the common name of many small owl species, such as the spotted owlet, chestnut owlet, Javan owlet, forest owlet and long-whiskered owlet. When the term is part of the species name, however, it is applied to both mature and young birds, whereas all young owls of any species can be referred to with the generic term owlet.
Photo – Barred Owl Owlet © Minette Layne