The Tawny-tufted Toucanet is the northwest Amazonian representative of the genus Selenidera, where it is more or less confined to the so-called Imeri Center of Endemism. In many ways a typical member of its genus, males are largely black below and over the head, and green above, with red-and-yellow thighs, a red-tipped dark tail, a multicolored bill, and tawny-yellow ear-tufts. Females are broadly similar, but the black of the head and underparts is replaced by rusty-rufous. The Tawny-tufted Toucanet is patchily distributed, usually along rivers, and occurs from easternmost Colombia and southernmost Venezuela south into northwest Brazil. It was described by John Gould for its collector, the remarkable Austrian natural historian Johann Natterer.