This large swallow has a brick-red rump and underparts and dark blue upperparts. It is told from other swallows by the metallic-blue patches on the side of the head that cover the ears and eyes. It is resident near the equator and is a wet season breeding visitor in the north and south of its range. The Rufous-chested Swallow flies strongly, with frequent swoops and changes of course, over sparse woodland, grassland, wetland edges, and other open habitats. In flight it differs from similar swallows by the color of the forward part of the underwing: buffy in Rufous-chested Swallow and white in Mosque Swallow, which also has a pale throat.