The upperpart of this species are generally brown, and the underparts are pale and heavy scalloped.
Male has a bright red head. Red-Headed Quela is similar but has plain underparts. Female differs from the smaller female Cut-Throat Finch in having a uniformly pale brown head, and less heavilly barred and streaked underparts and upperparts. Juvenile is duller than adult.
Dry grassland, thornveld and broad-leaved woodland.
A soft 'chuk-chuk-chuk', and a 'zree, zree' flight call.