The green-and-black fruiteater is a plump, stocky bird with a length of about 18 cm (7 in). The adult male has a black head, throat and chest glossed with green and mid-green upper parts, with pale tips to the tertial feathers of the wings. There is a yellow rim to the dark chest and the underparts are otherwise yellowish, usually mottled or streaked with green. The female is similar to the male apart from the replacement of the black areas by green, and the absence of the yellow necklace. In both sexes, the iris of the eye is reddish-brown, and the legs and bill are orangish-red. The song is a high-pitched "ts-s-s-s-s-s-s" lasting for a few seconds, slowing and sometimes fading as it winds down.