Length 14-16 cm, mass 20-38 g.
Adult male: Head black with broad white semicircles from behind eyes to side of throat. Nape and mantle greyish, merging into rufous or chestnut back and rump.
Adult female: Similar to the male, but with a grey and white head.
The Cape sparrow lives in dry areas of southern Africa like the arid and semi-arid savanna, dry woodland along drainage lines and seasonal watercourses; also croplands, plantations and copses of alien trees, parks and gardens.
Forages mainly on the ground for seeds and insects, but also takes fruits, seeds and nectar directly from plants.
The Cape sparrow nests singly, or in loose colonies (up to 100 pairs; up to 15 nests in one tree). The nest is an untidy mass of grass and other plant material with a tunnel entrance and is thickly lined with feathers or soft plant material. Laying usually August to March (2-6 eggs).