The back and scapulars are whitish with narrow brown streaking (slightly darker and washed with pale brown on the scapulars), contrasting with the unstreaked white rump. The wing feathers are dark blackish-brown with broad, bold, sharply contrasting white feather edges on the coverts and flight feathers, the former forming two broad white wing bars. The deeply notched tail is dark blackish-brown with narrow white feather edges. The underparts are largely pure white, with some faint, narrow pale brown streaking on the sides and flanks and, occasionally, a single very narrow brown central streak on the undertail coverts (undertail coverts usually pure white). The breast is faintly washed with pale pink. The head is whitish, sometimes with a faint peachy-buff tinge to the sides of the face, with very narrow dusky streakes on the hindcrown, nape, and hindneck and a prominent area of bright red on the forecrown. The lores, chin, and area immediately behind the eye are blackish, accentuating a very narrow broken white eye-ring. The iris is dark, the short, stubby, conical bill is yellowish with a tiny dark tip, and the legs and feet are blackish.
The adult female is similar overall to the adult male, but lacks the pink wash on the breast, has darker and more extensive brown streaks on the back, scapulars, sides, and flanks, and has a more pronounced peachy-buff wash on the sides of the head.
This plumage is acquired on the breeding grounds prior to fall migration and is held throughout the first winter. Both sexes are similar in pattern to adult females, but noticeably buffier on the head, back, and scapulars (background colour creamy-grey) and have a heavier buff wash on the sides and flanks. The dark streaking on the upperparts and underparts is heavier and more extensive than in adult females, and the red on the forecrown is reduced. Furthermore, the white wing bars are slightly narrower than in adult females, the white rump often shows limited narrow dark streaking (unstreaked in female), and there is a greater tendency for the undertail coverts to show up to three narrow brown streaks (undertail coverts usually unstreaked or with one narrow streak in adult females). Immature males average brighter and whiter than immature females, particularly during the late winter, and sometimes begin to show a pinkish wash on the breast as breeding season approaches.
Total Length: 13-14 cm
Mass: 12-14.5 g
Source: Knox and Lowther (2000); Sibley (2000)