Males, older than one year, have scarlet head, breast and rump. Females, juveniles and first year males have streaked brown heads and somewhat resemble small corn buntings. The species breeds across much of northern Asia and parts of eastern and central Europe and migrate south-east in winter. In the UK they have bred sporadically.
Rare to see this species seems to pass through the northern isles as well as the eastern and southern seaboard of mainland UK. with an estimated 0-4 resident breeding pairs.
They are found in summer in thickets, woodland and forest edges near rivers and in winter in gardens and orchards, wetlands and locally in dry oak woods.
The nest is placed low in a bush and the five eggs are dark blue with coarse dark brown spots.