Adult male red-crested pochards have a pale brown upperparts with a white edge to the primaries, and a broad white band along the full length of the wing. The neck and breast are black, the flanks are white and the tail is black. The head is orange with a fuzzy crown, and the eyes are red, the bill is pinkish red, and the legs and feet are orange.
In eclipse plumage, red-crested pochards are browner with a dark brown cap on the head and pale brown face. The bill is red.
Female red-crested pochards look like males in eclipse but the bill is grey with a pink patch near the tip.
Juveniles are similar to eclipse males but with a pink bill.