The upperparts of this species are grey or blue-grey with darker grayish flight feathers; in flight, the flight feathers show narrow darker banding. The relatively long, square-tipped tail is grey above and paler below, with several broad dark bands and a narrow whitish tip. The underparts are whitish with dense, extensive rufous barring on the breast, flanks, and belly; the undertail coverts are white. The underwing coverts are densely barred with rufous and are similar in colour to the underparts. The crown and nape are grey or blue-grey and are similar in colour to the upperparts or slightly darker. The cheeks are rufous-brown and the throat is whitish or washed with rufous. Females are slightly browner than males. The iris is red (orange in younger adults), the bill is dark grey with a yellow cere, and the legs and feet are yellow.
This plumage is held until approximately 11-16 months of age (the summer or fall of the second year). In this plumage, the upperparts are brownish with narrow paler brown or buffy edges to the feathers; the flight feathers are darker grey with paler brownish edges or narrow buffy tips. Often shows irregular pale buffy patches on scapulars. When in flight, the flight feathers are noticeably banded with dark grey, especially below, and the underwing coverts are whitish with dark markings (similar to the underparts). The tail is similar in pattern to the adult, but is brownish rather than grey. The underparts are whitish with extensive dark brownish or rusty-brown streaking on the breast and belly, merging with dark barring on the sides and flanks; the undertail coverts sometimes show dark brownish streaking. The crown and nape are brownish with fine darker streaking, and the cheeks and sides of the neck are paler (or even whitish) with dark brown streaking, often with a brownish wash on the ear coverts. There is often a whitish line above the eye, but this can be obscured in particularly dark individuals; the throat is whitish, often with fine dark streaks. The iris is yellow, but bare part colouration (bill, legs, feet) is otherwise similar to the adult.
Total Length: 25-36 cm (f > m)
Mass: 93-192 g (f > m)
Source: Bildstein and Meyer (2000); Taylor (2006).