The dark cap lightly streaked with grey, the black-and-red bill and the white collar are diagnostic. It may be distinguished from brown-hooded kingfisher, which often occurs in the same habitat, by its smaller size, darker cap and white collar. The blue rump id evident only in flight. In flight it shows extensive white on the underwing and a white flash in the upperwing (brown-hooded kingfisher has no white in the wings.
Sexes differ in their underwing pattern: male has a black band across the remiges, which female lacks. Juvenile has a dusky bill and blackish, scaled breast and flanks.
Thornveld, and riverine and coastal forests.
A hogh-pitched, piercing 'cheer-cherrrrr', the last notes running togerther.