This small shorebird is distinctive in breeding plumage, with a black belly-patch extending behind its black legs. Its head and breast are light-colored, and its back is bright rufous. In non-breeding plumage it is drab gray with a brownish head and breast. In flight it has white underwings, a white line down the middle of the upperwing, and white on either side of its rump and tail. The white underwings are especially distinctive in flight. As a flock twists and turns together in flight, white flashes of underwing are evident from a distance.