Brown-backed Antwren forages in low vegetation, vine tangles, and palm/heliconia swamps, specializing on searching dead leaves suspended off the ground (Krabbe et al. 1999, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a), though it will also take prey from live leaves, twigs, and epiphytes (Darrah, unpublished data; Buitrón-Jurado, unpublished data). This species obtains prey primarily by gleaning or probing from a perch or hanging upside-down to reach surfaces below its perch, but will occasionally use wing- or leg-powered hopping to reach prey (Darrah, unpublished data; Buitrón-Jurado, unpublished data). This species perches on small branches, stems, vines, or dead leaves while foraging. Mean foraging height estimated from observations of six Brown-backed Antwrens was 1.4 m (1.1 SD; Darrah, unpublished data). This species generally forages at heights lower than that of Rufous-tailed Antwren (Epinecrophylla erythrura) when present in the same mixed-species flocks (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a).