It has a red face, black and white head, warm brown upperparts, white underparts with buff flanks and breast patches, and black and yellow wings. The ivory-coloured bill is long and pointed, and the tail is forked. Adult male: red on face extends slightly behind eye. Adult female: as male, but red on face extends only to eye.
Song is a pleasant and very characteristic rapid tinkling 'tsswit-witt-witt' repeated with various twittering, buzzing 'zee-zee' notes added, creating a fast and liquid canary-like song.