Ranging from 20 to 22 cm (8–83⁄4 in) long with a 32 cm (12 1⁄2 in) wingspan, the turquoise parrot is a small and slightly built parrot weighing around 40 g (1 1⁄2 oz). Both sexes have predominantly green upperparts and yellow underparts. The male has a bright turquoise-blue face which is darkest on the crown and slightly paler on the lores, cheeks and ear coverts. The neck and upperparts are grass-green, and the tail is grass-green with yellow borders. The wing appears bright blue with a darker leading edge when folded, with a band of red on the shoulder. The underparts are bright yellow, slightly greenish on the breast and neck. Some males have orange patches on the belly, which may extend to the breast. When extended, the wing is dark blue with red on the trailing edge on the upper surface, and black with dark blue leading coverts underneath. The upper mandible of the bill is black and may or may not fade to grey at the base, while the lower mandible is cream with a grey border in the mouth. The cere and orbital eye-ring are grey and the iris is dark brown. The legs and feet are grey.
Generally duller and paler, the female has a more uniform and paler blue face, with highly contrasting cream bare skin around the eye. It lacks the red shoulder band, and the blue shoulder markings are darker and less distinct. The throat and chest are pale green and the belly is yellow. The upper mandible is paler brown-grey with a darker tip, and has been recorded as black while nesting. The lower mandible is pale grey to almost white. When flying, the female has a broad white bar visible on the underwing.
Juvenile birds of both sexes have less extensive blue on their faces, the coloration not extending past the eye. The upperparts resemble those of the adult female. Both sexes have the white wing-stripe, which disappears with maturity in males. The immature male has a red patch on the wing and may also have an orange wash on the belly.
The turquoise parrot is a predominantly ground-based seed eater, foraging in clearings in open woodland, forest margins, and near trees in more open areas such as pastures. It occasionally feeds along road verges and rarely ventures onto lawns. Birds forage in pairs or small troops of up to thirty or even fifty individuals.
Foraging takes place from early in the morning till late afternoon, with a break between midday and mid-afternoon. Birds prefer to feed in shaded areas, where they are better camouflaged in the grass.
Grass and shrub seeds form the bulk of the diet, and leaves, flowers, fruit and scale insects are also eaten.