Chunky and short-tailed widowbird. Male shows large reddish shoulders in all plumages, but is otherwise black in breeding plumage and streaky brown in non-breeding plumage. The female is brown and heavily streaked below, with a small rufous patch on the shoulder. Found mainly in marsh, but also in wet grassland, cultivation, and moist scrub. Usually in flocks, especially when not breeding. Song consists of simple chirps and trills. Females could be confused with many other species but show rufous on the shoulder and usually associate with males, which show distinctive reddish shoulders.