A small, dumpy sparrow-like weaver. The breeding male is a mix of velvety vermilion and black; the narrow black forecrown is diagnostic. The female and non-breeding male are nondescript, with a short tail and strong buff eyebrow, and are difficult to tell apart from other bishops. Pairs and small flocks are always close to water when breeding, and mixed-species colonies occur in reedbeds and swampy grassland, but they disperse into adjacent scrub in the non-breeding season, often in flocks. The song is an extended fizzling sizzle. Breeding males of other red bishop species either have no black forehead, or have a much more extensive black crown.