The Brown Wood-Rail is endemic to the Pacific coast of northwest South America, where it occurs from western Colombia south to southwestern Ecuador. It is found in forested areas and second growth, often along rivers, as well as in mangroves and swampy woodlands, up to approximately 900 m. The Brown Wood-Rail is a relatively large member of its genus. It has a gray head and pale throat, but most of the rest of the plumage is chestnut to warm brown, except for the black tibial feathering and rectrices. The lack of any gray on the foreneck should immediately separate it from any other wood-rail. The Brown Wood-Rail is a very poorly known species, which is reportedly rare over much of its range, with just one record from Peru, and at least in Ecuador it has apparently declined significantly in response to extensive habitat modification throughout the western lowlands in recent decades.