The Australian Owlet-nightjar is the smallest of the nocturnal birds found in Australia. Its long tail distinguishes it from owls. Its large brown eyes are non-reflective when exposed to a torch or spotlight (other nocturnal birds give a red reflection). Plumage is grey, paler below, and faintly barred with black. There are two wide black stripes that extend over the head from the top of the eyes, and meet on the back of the neck.