An 80 cm tall cormorant-like species with a very long neck. It has a thin white lateral neck stripe against a rufous background colour. The male is mainly glossy black with white streaking, but females and immature birds are browner, the white stripe is fainter or completely absent.
It occurs in both saline and fresh water, especially near mangroves.
Often swims with only the neck above water.
They spear their prey (mainly fish but also other aquatic animals e.g. snakes, frogs, crustaceans etc.) underwater as they swim along.
This species builds a stick nest in a tree and lays 3-6 eggs. It often nests with herons, egrets and cormorants.