These birds have a short conical bill, a streaked back and a white tail with a dark tip. In breeding plumage, the male has black underparts, a chestnut nape, a yellow throat and a black crown. Other birds have light brown underparts, a dark crown, brown wings and may have some chestnut on the nape.
This bird breeds in short and mixed grass prairies in central Canada and the north central United States. The female lays 4 or 5 eggs in a grass cup nest in a shallow scrape on the ground. The male sings and flies up to defend his territory. Both parents feed the young birds.
These birds forage on the ground, gathering in flocks in winter. They mainly eat seeds, also eating insects in summer. Young birds are mainly fed insects.
The call is a two-syllabled chee dee.
Like other prairie birds, they have disappeared from some areas due to habitat loss but are still fairly common.