Adults are streaky gray-brown to russet above (paler in Texas birds) and pale buffy or creamy below. They have a brownish crown, a thin brownish eyestripe, and a pale throat. Juveniles are brownish above and buffy with strong streaking below.
Forages mostly on the ground for insects and seeds. Sometimes chases rapidly after insects. Males perch prominently when singing; otherwise both sexes are mostly terrestrial and difficult to see, freezing or fleeing on foot when disturbed.
Birds from Arizona and interior Mexico nest in semidesert grassland, especially swales with giant sacaton (bunchgrass). Along the Texas and Mexico coasts, individuals nest in Gulf coastal prairie or pastureland with scattered shrubs.
Ornithologists recognize up to 9 subspecies, 2 of which breed in the United States:the more reddish arizonae in desert grassland of southeastern Arizona, and the grayer texana in coastal prairie of southern Texas.