It is about the size of the Eurasian Jay or slightly smaller with a jet black stripe above the eyes and a sooty black face. The rest of the neck and breast is a sooty grey becoming paler towards the lower belly and rump and the top of the head and nape are silvery-grey. The wing primaries are black with a white spot near the base at the wing coverts, and the tail is relatively short and also black, as are bill, legs and feet.
This bird covers quite a large geographical area and consequently has several recognised regional forms that differ slightly from one another for instance in colour and tail length.
It ranges from north eastern India, Nepal, Assam, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, southern China, Taiwan (to which the nominate subspecies is endemic to) and Indochina. Forests and wooded hills or mountains are its usual haunt, and it is quite often found in areas of hill terrace cultivation.
This treepie is mostly an arboreal feeder but will take some food from the ground especially in cultivated regions. A wide range of insects and other invertebrates are taken including berries, nectar, grain and other seeds and also small reptiles, eggs and nestlings. It sometimes travels in feeding parties with Laughingthrushes (Garrulax species).
The nest is quite shallow and lightly built in trees and bushes or clumps of bamboo with 3-4 eggs per clutch.
The voice is described as harsh and grating, but like other species is quite varied and includes a grating k-r-r-r-r sound as well as more melodious notes.