An unmistakable black-and-white wading bird with a long, very thin, upturned bill and a black cap and hindneck. In flight, the pied pattern is striking, with three black patched on each upperwing. The underwing is black only at the tip. The long, bluish grey legs extend beyond the tail in flight.
Juvenile has the black replaced by mottled brown.
Lakes, estuaries, vleis, saltpans and temporary pools, both coastal and inland. Feeds in water, using a sweeping side-to-side bill movement or by upending, duck-style, in deeper water. Usually in small flocks.
A clear 'kooit'; also 'kik-kik' alarm call.