This is a small lark at 12 cm. The male is striking, with brown-black underparts and head apart from brilliant white patches on the nape and a grey crown. The upperparts and wings are pale grey, as is the thick bill.
The female Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark is a drabber bird with pale brown-grey underparts and buff underparts fading to white on the belly. Dark grey underwing coverts are visible in flight. Young birds are like the female.
The male indulges in a spectacular display "song"-flight during the breeding season (March-August in peninsular India ). He takes off from the ground flying directly up till he reaches a height of about 30-40 ft. from the ground. Here he closes his wings and dives straight down with his characteristic "sweeeeee..." whistle, making like a missile homing onto its target. He remains in the dive till he almost crashes to the ground, where he abruptly pulls up and flies up again to repeat the manoeuvre. The bird's plumage blends so well with its habitat that the bird, secure in this knowledge, remains motionless and only whirrs away when almost trampled upon.