A dark, elongated, duck-like, aquatic bird with neon orange bill and legs. The back and underparts are variably spotted and barred. The throat is gray in the male and white in the female. It swims slow and low in the water with its tail held on the surface. This secretive bird moves in pairs on perennial rivers, swamps, and quiet clear backwaters, foraging under overhanging cover for invertebrates, frogs, and fish. The short, thick neck and bright-colored bill and feet differentiate it from darters and cormorants.