Though traditionally placed within the Cotingidae, the Swallow-tailed Cotinga is currently considered "incertae sedis" by SACC. While the genus Phibalura is usually considered to be monotypic, the subspecies boliviana of Apolo, Bolivia is sometimes split as a species separate from the nominate subspecies flavirostris of the Atlantic forests of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina; both taxa are threatened by habitat loss. The male Swallow-tailed Cotinga has a dark head with pale, horn-colored bill, rust-orange throat, green, black, and white spangled back, and blackish wings and blackish, forked, medium length tail. The upper chest is white, edged with black; the lower belly is washed yellowish-white. Females are similar but duller and less contrasting overall with shorter tails.