An elongated black bird with a coppery-purple metallic sheen and a long, decurved red-orange bill. The juvenile has a dark bill, but is often in the company of adults. The species flies heavily with the white-tipped tail dangling. Pairs and groups of 3-12 are highly social, occupying arid savanna, woodland, and riverine forest along the Namib escarpment, where they nest and roost in natural cavities. They clamber in trees, probing bark and crevices for insects and small vertebrates, and communicate using a strong cackling chatter that is almost maniacal. The almost identical Green Woodhoopoe (with which this species sometimes hybridizes) only differs from Violet Woodhoopoe by having a glossy-greenish (not coppery-purple) metallic sheen.