African Darter male has crown and back of the neck black and chestnut. Rest of the neck is chestnut, with conspicuous white stripe from the sides of the face to mid-neck. Its plumage is glossy black, streaked with white and silver on wings and mantle, and prominently on elongated black scapulars’ feathers. It has long black tail, held fanned when resting. Legs and webbed feet are brown. Eyes are golden. Long sharp pointed bill is horn-brown. Chin and throat are whitish. Male has generally larger bill than female.
Female and immature are paler than male, mostly buffy-brown. Female has brown crown and upper neck. She has less distinct white stripe on the neck sides. Chicks are covered with white down.
African Darter is also named “snake bird”, because it swims very low, with only head and neck above the water.