The adult bird has a more or less white head, tinged with buff, and with black shaft streaks on the crown. The body, above and below, and the mantle are bright cinnamon-rufous, paler on the chest. There is a black crescent on the upper breast. The back has scattered black shaft stripes; the flight and tail feathers are black with the base of the tail barred with rufous. The eyes are bright reddish brown, the cere and bill black, and the legs bluish white.
The black-collared hawk lives on a diet mainly composed of fish. It also eats water bugs and occasionally lizards, snails and rodents.