The Mourning Sierra-Finch is a large tanager-finch with some resemblance to Emberizids of the genus Zonotrichia, although the two are entirely unrelated. The name mourning refers to the largely black, grey and white plumage of this species, as if in mourning. This applies to the male which is grayish-black above and streaked, and blackish on the face and breast. The wings are adorned with two bold white wingbars, and the bright orange-yellow bill stands out on the largely black face. The female is duller, browner but retains the bold wingbars and shows a rusty cheek patch which is distinctive. This sierra-finch sings from a perch such as a shrub, or accompanied by a flight display in which the song is given while parachuting down with spread wings and tail from a 20-30 foot elevation. The song itself is a rather odd and unmusical buzzy sound, which may remind one of several of the marsh nesting Icterids of North America. This sierra-finch has a huge range in terms of latitude, although in the north it is restricted to shrubby and open areas in the high Andes, and farther south it is common even down to sea level. Throughout its range it does like areas where open shrub habitats are adjacent to grassy areas; in the non-breeding season it may venture to agricultural areas and even form small flocks.