This owl is fairly large, variously reported from 35.5 to 48 cm (14–19 in) long. An analysis of the weight of 13 birds of both sexes showed a range of 590–1,250 g (1.30–2.76 lb), and an average of 873 g (1.925 lb). It is dark brown above and whitish below with prominent rusty-colored barring and a broad brown chest band mottled with whitish-buff. Its facial disc is dark brown with white spectacles. The throat has a white half-collar. The eyes are a reddish brown. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, between elevations of 700 m and 1,600 m.
The behavior of this owl is almost completely unknown. Like its better known cousin, the spectacled owl, it is believed to hunt a wide variety of prey while watching from a perch and dropping down to catch prey.