Its habitat is Karoo and desert scrub, hummock dunes and gravel plains.
The Tractrac Chat is 14-15 cm long with a weight of 20 g. Its tail is white with a dark inverted “T” at the tip, reminiscent of the pattern shown by several wheatears. The short straight bill and the legs and feet are black. It has a dark eye. The Namib form found on hummock dunes and at the coast has almost white plumage with grey wings and grey tail marking. The south-eastern form, found in gravel plains has brown upperparts with blackish flight feathers and tail markings. Its underparts are white. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile is more mottled than the adult.
This species is smaller than the Karoo Chat which also has the white of the outer tail feathers extending to the tip. It is paler and greyer than Familiar and Sickle-winged Chats, both of which have a darker rump.
The Tractrac Chat has a soft fast "tactac" song and a loud chattering territorial defence call.
It is usually seen singly or in pairs. It forages from the ground for insects including butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. Prey is typically taking in a short flight.