The adult male is 90-105 cm in length its tail accounting for two-thirds of the total length. It is unmistakable with its golden head and rump, and bright red body. The "cape" can be raised in display.
The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage all over, similar to that of the female Common Pheasant. She is darker and more slender than the hen of that species, with a proportionately longer tail (half her 60-80 cm length).
Despite the male's showy appearance, these birds are very difficult to see in their natural habitat, which is dense, dark young conifer forests with sparse undergrowth. Consequently, little is known of their behaviour in the wild.
They feed on the ground on grain, leaves and invertebrates, but roost in trees at night. Whilst they can fly, they prefer to run: but if startled they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive wing sound.
The male has a gruff call in the breeding season.