At large few European birds possess greater beauty, the pure white of its scapulars and inner web of the flight-feathers contrasting vividly with the deep glossy black on the rest of its body and wings, while its long tail is lustrous with green, bronze, and purple reflections.
The outer lanceolate scapulars have one-half of their webs pure white, forming a conspicuous stripe along the side of the back.
The rest of the head, the neck, throat and lower parts generally are clothed with lanceolate feathers of a pale tawny colour - sometimes so pale as to be nearly white beneath; while the scapulars, back and wing-coverts generally, are of a glossy greyish-black, most of the feathers having a white shaft and a median tawny line.
The plumage is white, except the primaries, which are black, and a black plume, formed by the secondaries, tertials and lower scapulars, and richly glossed with bronze, blue and green, which curves gracefully over the hind-quarters.
The cock has a fine yellow bill and a head bearing a rounded crest of filamentous feathers; lanceolate scapulars overhang the wings, and from the rump spring the long flowing plumes which are so characteristic of the species, and were so highly prized by the natives before the Spanish conquest that no one was allowed to kill the bird when taken, but only to divest it of its feathers, which were to be worn by the chiefs alone.