This pratincole is 24–28 cm (9.4–11.0 in) long with a 60–70 cm (24–28 in) wingspan. It has short legs, long pointed wings, a long forked tail, and a short bill, which is an adaptation to aerial feeding. The back and head are brown, and the wings are brown with darker flight feathers. The belly is white. The underwings are chestnut, but look dark below.
Very good views are needed to distinguish this species from other pratincoles, such as the black-winged pratincole and the oriental pratincole, which may occur in its range. The latter species also has a chestnut underwing, but is shorter-tailed.