Head and throat grey, being darker on the crown, with black side patches. Bill is black at tip, fading to blue-gray at base. Back is brown, faintly barred. Wing coverts and secondaries striped black and white. Rump and tail coverts red, underparts grey with pink tinge becoming red on flanks and belly, with black vent. Female is paler, with brown vent. Juveniles resemble the female, with a darker bill. There are several geographical variants with subtle plumage differences.
Frequents dry grassland with thornbush or acacia scrub, the edges of woodland and sometimes cultivated areas. Feeds on (or close to) the ground, mainly on grass seeds and millet. Will also take small insects, fruit and buds and the blossoms of fruit trees (possibly to obtain pollen or nectar).
Widely distributed in Kenya in places Samburu National Reserve, Meru National Park, Lake Baringo, and Lake Bogoria.