It is a robin-sized bird at 15-17.5 cm in length. It has a streaked brown back, somewhat resembling a house sparrow, but adults have a grey head and red-brown spotting on the underparts. It has an insectivore's fine pointed bill.
Sexes are similar, although the male may be contrasted in appearance. Young birds have browner heads and underparts.
It is found throughout the mountains of southern temperate Europe, Lebanon and Asia at heights above 2000 m. It is mainly resident, wintering more widely at lower latitudes, but some birds wander as rare vagrants as far as Great Britain.
It is a bird of bare mountain areas with some low vegetation.