Somewhat thrush-like in appearance, this montane piha is exclusively restricted to the east slope of the Andes, in humid and wet mossy forests of southern Colombia, south somewhat discontinuously to southern Peru. This species and Olivaceous Piha (Snowornis cryptolophus) were sometimes formerly placed in the genus Lathria, but most authorities placed them with the genus Lipaugus, from which group of species they were only conclusively shown to differ a decade ago. Gray-tailed Piha is a long- and slender-tailed species and, in the field, is only likely to be confused with the Olivaceous Piha, as their ranges extensively overlap on the east slope of the Andes, although the two species are mainly elevationally parapatric. However, Olivaceous Piha is a more uniform bird, and lacks the contrasting grey belly and tail of the Gray-tailed. The recently erected genus Snowornis was named in homage to the British ornithologist and student of the Cotingidae, David Snow. The natural history of this enigmatic cotinga is almost completely unknown.