Two subspecies recognized (Snow 1979):
unirufus Sclater 1859; type locality Playa Vicente, Oaxaca, Mexico
Occurs from southern Mexico south to northern Colombia. See Detailed Description.
castaneotinctus Hartert 1902; type locality Río Durango, Ecuador
Occurs in southwestern Colombia and northwestern Ecuador.
Compared to nominate unirufus, castaneotinctus is darker above (more chestnut cinnamon).
The genus Lipaugus (seven species) is in the Cotingidae family, part of the Tyrannida clade. Relationships within Lipaugus have not been determined.
Within Cotingidae, a phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data (from both nuclear and mitochondrial genes) indicated that Lipaugus is part of a core cotinga clade with four monophyletic groups whose relationships are not resolved. There is, however, strong support for a clade that groups Lipaugus fuscocinereus (Dusky Piha), L. unirufus and Tijuca atra (Black-and-gold Cotinga). These were only two species of Lipaugus included in this survey; the two Lipaugus did not form a distinct clade, but instead all three species grouped together in an unresolved polytomy. Although a lekking species, the Rufous Piha is sexually monomorphic, a derived characteristic for this genus. For this lekking genus, emphasis on male phenotypes has been replaced by an advancement in vocalizations (i.e. the powerful whistles for which pihas are known; Ohlson et al. 2007).