Male has bold chestnut shoulder patches bordered with black and white and a yellow throat patch. Female is identical but both patches duller. Bill yellow, black in male in breeding season. Tail fairly long. Rather pale and featureless in some lights. Has a pipit-like flight. Usually arboreal. Feeds on invertebrates, leaves and nectar, in small groups. Difficult to spot in foliage.
Male: grey crown and rump; chestnut sides of neck and nape; black streaks on chestnut-rufous back; black chin, centre of throat and breast; white ear-coverts. The Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis male has a chestnut crown and black streaks on flanks. Female: dull grey-brown above, streaked darker; dull whitish-brown below. Small parties to large gatherings; mostly commensal on man, feeding and nesting in and around habitation, including most crowded localities; also feeds in cultivation; hundreds roost together.