A slender owl with tawny to golden-brown dorsal plumage with varying amounts of gray. Breast and belly plumage ranges from white to buff and is sparsely to heavily speckled with small black spots. The head lacks ear tufts and has relatively small dark eyes and a distinctive heart-shaped, white to buff facial disk. The legs are long and sparsely feathered, wings long and rounded with a short rounded tail. As with many raptors, sexes differ with females being larger and heavier. As well females are darker, and more heavily speckled than males. Owlets are covered in fluffy snow-white down which becomes similar to adult plumage as they mature.