Plumage very soft. Bill small, strongly toothed; tarsus naked, almost throughout covered with rather large polygonal scales in front, and smaller behind; toes weak and short, claws very little curved. Wing short and rounded; tail almost as long as the wing and greatly graduated, the outer tail-feathers in the Burned species being short of the middle rectrices by nearly one-third the length of the tail. Sexes dissimilar in plumage.
There are only two species of Poliohierax; one inhabits Africa,, the other Burma. The affinities of the genus are very obscure.