The acute stress response involves the secretion of catabolic glucocorticoids, such as corticosterone (CORT) in birds, that mobilize intrinsic energy stores primarily through a gluconeogenic pathway involving fat breakdown, thus linking body condition and stress. We measured changes in CORT and gluconeogenic metabolites (triglycerides, free glycerols, glucose) during handling stress in curve-billed thrashers Toxostoma curvirostre from two habitats (urban vs. desert) that may differ in food abundance in the wild, in captivity, and in response to both food restriction and subsequent recovery. Urban thrashers were heavier and secreted more CORT than desert birds in the field, but differences did not persist in captivity. Decreased access to food resulted in decreased body mass and a diminished ability to elevate plasma CORT in response to handling stress. However, the opposite effect was observed as these birds recovered from food restriction. Plasma levels of glucose and triglycerides did not change with stress. Food restriction also increased locomotor activity, which likely further exacerbated energy loss. These observations suggest that body condition and stress differences between urban and desert birds may be related to differences in their relative energetic states, possibly due to food availability. Body condition may affect the extent to which an individual can elevate CORT and use free glycerol as energy during acute stress.