The male is mainly brown, sparingly streaked and spotted darker and cream above, chest and flank feathers are dark brown edged and centrally spotted cream. The face is pale cream finely flecked with dark brown, and the head features a chestnut crown and white supercilium. It has a chestnut neck collar, white cheek patches and brown wings. The male usually has two spurs on each leg, the upper one being blunt. The female is similar, but usually lacks spurs and is slightly smaller and less robustly built. Young birds are almost indistinguishable from adult females after the post juvenile moult at several weeks old, males take several months to develop any spurs. Breeding is unlikely until the birds are in their second year.
This is a very unobtrusive species, best seen in spring when the male sings a mechanical krak-krak-krak from a mound. It has a pheasant's explosive flight, but prefers to creep away unseen.