Adult male upperparts are brilliant scarlet, with black wings and tail. Underparts are scarlet. Female is yellow below and olive above, with grayish wings and tail. The bill is smaller than that of the closely related summer tanager. In late summer, males molt to a female-like plumage. During the molting process they are blotched with scarlet and yellow olive. The song is robinlike but very burry: "zerreet-zeerer-zerruu" or "queret-querer-queer-queret." The call is a distinctive "CHIP-burr."