The chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) is a medium-sized bird that is endemic to arid and semi-arid areas of south-eastern Australia. It is a member of the family Pomatostomidae, which comprises five species of Australo-Papuan babblers. All are boisterous and highly social, living in groups of up to 23 individuals that forage and breed communally. Other names include red-capped babbler, rufous-crowned babbler and chatterer.
Chestnut-crowned babblers are dark, brown-grey birds with a white throat and breast, white-tipped tail and a long, black, down-curved bill. Wings are short and rounded and the tail is long with a rounded tip. Diagnostic features include two white wing bars and a rich, chestnut crown highlighted by long, white eyebrows. The birds have dark brown eyes and grey legs, while the wings, back and flanks are brown-grey to mottled dusky on the mantle. The white of the throat and breast is well-defined and narrower than that of the similar, white-browed babbler (Pomatostomus superciliosus). Combined, these characteristics give the chestnut-crowned babbler a rather unusual appearance.
At 21–23 cm and approximately 50 g in weight, the chestnut-crowned babbler is noticeably smaller than the grey-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis). It also gives the appearance of being slimmer than other babbler species. Adults are sexually monomorphic. Immature birds are like the adults but duller, with a pale rufous eyebrow and chest, brown crown and whitish patch behind the eye.