Odd ground-dwelling bird that is rarely seen by those not looking for it. Brown upperparts, pale underparts, and elaborately striped head. Usually seen in pairs or family groups, walking on the forest floor. Defense behavior is to fly into a tree and freeze. Patchily distributed, mainly in western dry forest, but locally also in rainforest. Call is an incredibly loud and strident mix of clear “whee” notes and fast chuckling notes, usually given in duet by a pair. Can be separated from other mesites by range. Walks on the ground like Madagascar Buttonquail, but much larger and longer-tailed. Could be confused with White-throated Rail, but shorter and slimmer, longer-tailed, with pale underparts. Also slimmer, longer-tailed, and more elaborately patterned than a wood-rail.