A chunky, grayish-brown waxbill with a plain back, boldly barred and scalloped underparts, and a white-tipped outer tail. The head and throat of the male are characteristically red, while the female is uniform gray-brown. Pairs breed in arid thorn scrub, but in the non-breeding season they flock and become nomadic and irruptive, also occupying grassland, broadleaf woodland, and cultivation. The call is a sparrow-like dry chipping. The female Cut-throat looks similar to the larger female Red-headed Finch, but its barred (not plain) head and lack of a white-tipped outer tail differentiate it.