The nondescript Brownish Elaenia is confined to riverine forest, especially on islands, along the Amazon and its principal tributaries. It occurs from the mouth of the Amazon west to northeast Peru and south into northernmost Bolivia, and prefers mature stands of Cecropia trees. Locally, at least, the species is fairly common. The Brownish Elaenia is relatively large for its genus, perches rather upright, and its plumage is mainly dull brownish, with three brownish-white wingbars and whitish underparts. Virtually nothing is known about its ecology, although the species is assumed to feed largely on insects and small fruits, and seems relatively catholic in its choice for foraging strata, occurring from low levels to the canopy.