Length 13 cm (about size of Cape sparrow); bill very heavy; tail rounded.
Adult male: Whole head bright red; rest of upperparts greyish brown, faintly barred on rump (whole upperparts barred in Cut-throat Finch); breast and flanks fawn, spotted with white, each spot outlined in black; lower belly white; under tail barred black, white and brown.
Adult female: Similar to male, but head brown above, barred black and white on throat; female Cut-throat Finch barred black above.
Immature: Similar to adults, but duller; male has only trace of red on head. Chick: Palate pale with 5 black spots; throat and lower half of mouth black.
Open grassland with clumps of trees or small plantations, dry savanna, farmyards, cultivated fields.
Often in large flocks, frequently with other seedeaters.
Its diet includes seeds and insects.
Breeds mainly in the winter months (February to September) throughout southern Africa; almost any month in the Kalahari, depending on rainfall. Nest: Pad or ball of grass and feathers; in old nest of sparrow, Ploceus weaver (especially of Chestnut Weaver in n Namibia), Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Sociable Weaver, or in hole in tree or building; solitary or in small colony of 2-3 pairs in adjacent nest chambers. Clutch: 2-4, 2-11 eggs (usually 4-6). Eggs: White and rounded. Incubation: 12-14 days by both sexes. Nestling: 15-21 days; fed by both parents.