The Ashy Prinia is a small warbler. This prinia is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent, western Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It is a common bird in urban gardens and farmland in many parts of India and its small size, distinctive colours and upright tail make it easy to identify. The northern populations have a rufous rump and back and have a distinct breeding and non-breeding plumage while other populations lack such variation.
These 15 cm long warblers have short rounded wings and longish graduated cream tail tipped with black subterminal spots. The tail is usually held upright and the strong legs are used for clambering about and hopping on the ground. They have a short black bill. The crown is grey and the underparts are rufous in most plumages. In breeding plumage, adults of the northern population are ash grey above, with a black crown and cheek with no supercilium and rufescent wings. In non-breeding season this population has a short and narrow white supercilium and the tail is longer. They are found singly or in pairs in shrubbery and will often visit the ground.
In winter, the northern subspecies has warm brown upperparts and a longer tail and has seasonal variation in plumage. The other races retain summer plumage all year round. West Bengal and Eastwards race has is darker slaty above than the nominate race of the Peninsula and deeper rufous on the flanks with a finer and shorter beak. The distinctive race in Sri Lanka has a shorter tail and has the juveniles with yellowish underparts apart from a distinct call.