In typical woodcreeper fashion, this bird is mostly warm brown with streaks on the head and breast. Look for the notably long, extremely decurved bill. This species is easy to identify when it is the only scythebill in range, but in South America it overlaps with other scythebill species. Voice can be a good clue (Brown-billed usually stutters in its whistled series), and bill color can sometimes be helpful but often difficult to judge. Hitches up tree trunks much like a woodpecker. Most often seen following a mixed-species flock in the forest, sometimes in adjacent second growth.