A dull, nondescript, slender buffy bunting. Subtle features include a rusty wing panel, a pale spot near the ear, a buffy eyebrow, and a small pale silvery bill. Pairs can be low-density residents, but typically the species is nomadic, and large flocks irrupt into the semi-arid Karoo, Kalahari, and Namib after rainfall events; but it may reach savanna and other atypical habitats, particularly in drier years. It prefers areas with bare stony soil and often is found close to pools of drinking water. The song is a short series of varied scratchy trills, but the distinctive flight call is short, dry, crisp one-note “tec” which often betrays its presence. It often flocks with other seedeaters, lacking the black belly patch of the otherwise similar female sparrow-larks.