Sexes alike. Overall plumage grey; black head and neck; prominent white ear tufts; long black feathers of lower neck fall over breast; brownish- grey secondaries sickle-shaped and drooping over tail. Young birds have grey head and much shorter drooping secondaries over tail than adults. Huge flocks in winter, often many thousands; feeds early mornings and early evenings in cultivation; rests during hot hours on marsh edges and sandbanks; flies en masse when disturbed.
Sexes alike, but female slightly smaller than male; grey plumage; naked red head and upper neck; young birds are brownish-grey, with rusty-brown on head. Pairs, family parties or flocks; also feeds along with other waterbirds; known to pair for life and usually well-protected in northern and west-central India, but habitat loss continues to be a grave threat; flies under 12 metres off ground.