Upperpart coloration is very variable but the rufous cap, unmarked, white underparts and russet smudges on the sides of the breast are diagnostic.
Male is redder than female and has a longer crest. Juvenile has dark brown upperparts, spotted with white, and is pale below with a heavily spotted breast; it lacks the red cap and epaulettes of the adult.
Open country with very short grass cover.
A sparrow-like 'tchweerp', given in flight; song a sustained jumble of melodious phrases, given during display flight.