This is a small, variable plumaged, yellow eyed owl with ear-tufts which are not always erect. It can be distinguish from the collared scops owl by its whitish scapular stripe, well marked underparts, and lack of pale collar. There are two colour morphs, grey and rufous; intermediate forms also occur. Sexes are alike. Individuals may freeze with eyes half closed when disturbed. The species has a repeated liquid call sounding like "tuk tok torok".
The species has an extremely wide distribution across eastern and southern Asia, and is found in dry deciduous forests from the Russian Federation to Thailand. The owl nests in holes in trees during February–April.