Distinguished from other similar red-billed kingfishers by its brownish head streaked with black, the rufous patches on the sides of the breast and the well-streaked flanks. It differs from Striped Kingfisher by its all-red (not black-and-red) bill and by the lack of white in the upper underwing.
Male has a black back and female a brown back. Juvenile resembles female.
Non-aquatic; thornveld, open, broad-leaved woodland and coastal forests. Has adapted to suburbia and is common in gardens and parks.
A whistled 'tyi-ti-ti-ti' and a harsher 'klee-klee-klee' alarm note'.