The Tapajos Hermit occurs in east central Amazonian Brazil, between the Tapajós and the Xingu rivers. Despite this rather broad distribution, for decades it was almost completely overlooked by ornithologists. Originally described as a subspecies, and later considered to represent a hybrid combination, it was not recognized as a valid, distinct species until as recently as 2009. The Tapajos Hermit is a small hermit, and is similar to species such as Streak-throated Hermit (Phaethornis rupurumii) and Black-throated Hermit (Phaethornis atrimentalis), which it replaces geographically. In view of widespread deforestation within its range, the IUCN Red List status of the Tapajos Hermit is rated as Near-Threatened.