Until the recent discovery of the Rufous Twistwing (Cnipodectes superrufus), the Brownish Twistwing, itself a relatively infrequently seen bird, was the sole member of the genus Cnipodectes. This species is a principally brown flycatcher, with a slight buff loral spot, and rufous fringes to the wing feathers, a rufous tail, and rather paler ventral underparts. It is perhaps unlikely to be confused with another tyrant flycatcher, but could be mistaken for a Thrush-like Schiffornis (Schiffornis turdina), which is found across much of the same range, but lacks the rufous feather edgings to the wings. The flycatcher is primarily distributed across western Amazonia, but also ranges locally north to easternmost Panama. The Brownish Twistwing is so-named for its modified outer primaries, which possess thickened and twisted shafts.