The Black-headed Antbird is exclusively Amazonian in distribution and is confined to areas north of the Amazon, from northeast Peru to the Guianas and the mouth of the river. Four subspecies are recognized, which differ principally in female plumage, and some of which are not black-headed. Males are mainly gray, with a black crown and throat, and rows of white spots on the wing coverts, while females are largely pale orange-rufous below, and sometimes over the face and even entire crown, with darker upperparts, this time with orange (rather than white) wingbars. The Black-headed Antbird regularly consorts with other bird species when attending army ant swarms, searching for insect prey dislodged by the ants, but away from these it is usually found alone or in pairs. It inhabits the understory of tall second growth and evergreen forest, and occurs to 1100 m, at least locally. The species builds a domed nest of dead leaves placed low above the ground, and the clutch size is usually two eggs.