Markings variable, but coloration is in shades of gray and/or brown, and with a pale lower margin to the lateral lobes of the pronotum. Usually rather grizzled looking. Distinctly different looking from all other species with which it can be found, except perhaps S. americana in its easternmost range. S. americana is usually a warmer, yellowish or reddish brown, has usually two distinct dark bars on the side of the pronotum, has a contrasting pale stripe on the lower part of the front wing (when seen folded), and has no dark bars across the top of the hind femora (nearly always present in S. nitens).
Southwest, from Texas to California and north into Nevada, sw. Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. South into South America.
Varied, but most often found among rank tall herbage, trees, or shrubbery. Not as tied to damp environments as some related species.
Long. Some adults mature in late spring, many in summer and fall. Often adults are very common in late summer and well into autumn. Some adults will survive through winter into the following spring, at which time they still seem healthy and able to reproduce. So, it is possible to see adults of this species at any time of year.
Apparently a wide variety of plants.
Apparently overwintering primarily as eggs, hatching over an extended season from spring to late summer (perhaps hatching is related to rainfall events?), and maturing from late spring till late summer or early autumn. Some adults overwinter, and perhaps nymphs too (?). It is possible that southward there are two broods, but this is not clear. In tropical regions south of the U.S., and perhaps in southernmost Texas and coastal California, all stages can be found at most any time of year.
A strong flier, can fly great distances, but tends to fly lower and look more clumsy in flight than most other Schistocerca species (a deceiving impression, as it is far from clumsy in reality).
Will often come to lights at night, sometimes in great numbers.