Dendrocygna viduata is up to half a meter tall bird, adding to its height with its uprights-standing pose, long neck and legs. It is mostly dark, especially in the flight, apart from the face and throat, which are white with adults. The back of the head, the rest of the throat, belly and undertail coverts are black. The chest is chestnut in colour, and the sides of the body are in black and white striped feathers. The white face can become brownish. The juveniles are duller, and parts that will become white once adulthood is reached are brown.
They reside in open freshwater habitats, surrounded by vegetation, rice fields or forages. They are not loners, and they are frequent local migrants. They are active during the night but also feed during the day. They are very vocal.