It is 40–41 cm long, with deep blue or bluish-gray plumage with white markings, a shaggy crest and a broad white collar around the neck. Its most distinguishing characteristic is the entire rufous belly, which also covers the entire breast of the male. Females are more colorful than the male (i.e., reverse sexual dimorphism) and have a bluish-gray breast and a narrow white stripe separating the breast from the belly. It is often seen perched prominently on trees, posts, or other suitable "watchpoints" close to water before plunging in head first after its fish prey. They also eat small mammals, insects, small reptiles and berries.