The past five decades have shown that the avifauna of southwestern Amazonian forests holds a bonanza of exciting discoveries, principally in the myriad of habitats associated with river floodplains. One of the initial discoveries of this period was a single specimen of a Rufous-fronted Antthrush, collected by Celestino Kalinowski along the Río Madre de Dios, at the mouth of the Río Colorado in 1954, and described by Blake in 1957 (see Parker  for clarification of type locality). A second specimen collected by Kalinowski at the type locality was not noted until reported by Parker (1983). Although southeastern Peru has become one of the best studied areas in Amazonia, this species has proven to be elusive. In 1958, Blake collected two more, one at the type locality and the other downstream on the Río Madre de Dios at the mouth of the Río Inambari. The species then went undetected for 24 years, when Ted Parker found one singing in the middle of the a long-term study plot at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu National Park, not far upstream from the type locality (Parker 1983). Kratter (1995) provided more detail on habitat selection and estimated a population of fewer than 1000 pairs based on its known distribution in the Madre de Dios watershed of Peru. The species has since been found in the Rio Madre de Dios drainage in adjacent Bolivia, in the Rio Jurua drainage in Brazil, and in the Urubamba drainage in Cuzco, Peru.
The Rufous-fronted Antthrush is distinguished from other species in the genus by its bicolored crown – orange rufous at the forecrown and olive brown toward the rear. Its voice is distinctive as well. This species has proven to be very local and elusive: many records are of singing males that appear at gaps in tall floodplain forest on river floodplains, sing for a few weeks, and then disappear.