Royal Flycatcher is very widespread, with a distribution that extends from southern Mexico south to the Atlantic Forest region of southeastern Brazil. Throughout this broad area, Royal Flycatcher inhabits the lower levels of humid evergreen or deciduous forests, although it also ranges into mature second growth, and edges. Royal Flycatcher exhibits notable geographic variation across this range, and so some authors recognize as many as four species of royal flycatcher: a northern species that occurs from Mexico to northern Colombia and northern Venezuela; a Pacific species (occidentalis) that is restricted to southwestern Ecuador and adjacent Peru; an Amazonian species, which is widespread in northern and central South America east of the Andes; and an Atlantic species (swainsoni), that occurs only in southeastern Brazil. Two of these populations, occidentalis and swainsoni, are potentially at risk of extinction. All of these taxa are flycatchers with a long bill and tail; the plumage is mostly brown, with a rufous or ochraceous tail. The most notable feature of Royal Flycatcher is the long ornate crest, which is red to orange (paler in females), with black and blue spotting. This crest usually is recumbent, giving the flycatcher a distinctive "hammerhead" appearance. When fully erect, however, the crest also is flared laterally; although it is rare to see the crest erected in a free flying Royal Flycatcher, these birds are well known for fanning the crest when held in the hand, while rhythmicaly swaying the head from side to side. The nest of Royal Flycatcher is a very long, sack like structure suspended from a slender branch or vine, and frequently is placed over a stream (or a small clearing) in the forest.