The Crested Shrike-tit is a medium-small bird with a striking black and white striped head and neck, a small crest that is often held flattened over crown, a black throat, and a short heavy bill with hooked tips. It has wide, rounded wings and a square-tipped tail that can appear slightly forked. The species is separated into three geographically isolated subspecies. Males of the Eastern Shike-tit, frontatus, have an olive green back and rump, striking yellow underparts, with grey wings and
tail. Females of all races have a smaller head crest and an olive-green throat. Young birds have a pale throat and a brown back.