Urban areas—characterized by high human densities, buildings, and impermeable surfaces—are increasing globally and represent a leading threat to wildlife by drastically altering the natural resources wildlife species are accustomed to. Prior work suggests that living in urban habitats can cause wildlife to show increased cholesterol levels. In biomedical research, elevated cholesterol is linked to disease, but the consequence of elevated cholesterol in wildlife remains unclear. We measured total cholesterol in European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), an urban-adapted species, across an urban and a rural site. We asked: (1) Do urban starlings have elevated cholesterol? and (2) Is elevated cholesterol correlated to negative physiological outcomes in starlings? We found that nestlings from the urban (N = 16) and rural (N = 98) sites showed similar cholesterol, but adult starlings from the urban (N = 5) habitat showed elevated cholesterol compared to rural (N = 36) birds. However, elevated cholesterol was not correlated with increased oxidative damage to DNA, lowered body condition, or increased baseline glucocorticoids across any age class, suggesting that elevated cholesterol did not come at a physiological cost to starlings. Future work is needed to explore what mechanism(s) drive variation in cholesterol across urban and rural birds, as well as whether any long-term consequences of elevated cholesterol exist.

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