The male is a striking, medium-sized, mostly dark bustard with a bold white cheek patch and a reddish bill. The female has a black belly and is elsewhere finely barred. It inhabits thicker shrubby fynbos, coastal heath, and Karoo scrub, where it feeds on plants and small animals. It singsa strident, ratcheting “kraak-kraak-kraak” which leads into a maniacal “raa-cha-ka-ka-ka....cha-ka-ka-ka” display as the male flies around 20–30 m above the ground, with legs dangling. Similar White-quilled Bustard differs from Black Bustard by having a large white wing patch that is visible only in flight.