The Pale-tailed Barbthroat has a widespread range across much of Amazonia, although it is typically local and uncommon throughout its distribution, which stretches from the Guianas to northern Bolivia. It frequents a wide variety of forested habitats, usually in the lowlands and foothills. Some five subspecies have been described, and the Sooty Barbthroat (Threnetes niger) is sometimes also regarded as part of the present species. Most subspecies are characterized in having largely green upperparts, a dark throat and ear-coverts, separated by a pale malar streak, a rufous patch at the base of the throat, and pale tail sides. The bill is fairly long and almost straight in males, but slightly decurved in females.