© 2018 Elsevier Inc. El Niño Southern Oscillation events (ENSO) and the subsequent opposite weather patterns in the following months and years (La Niña) have major climatic impacts, especially on oceanic habitats, affecting breeding success of both land and sea birds. We assessed corticosterone concentrations from blood samples during standardized protocols of capture, handling and restraint to simulate acute stress from 12 species of Galapagos Island birds during the ENSO year of 1998 and a La Niña year of 1999. Plasma levels of corticosterone were measured in samples collected at capture (to represent non-stressed baseline) and subsequently up to 1 h post-capture to give maximum corticosterone following acute stress, and total amount of corticosterone that the individual was exposed to during the test period (integrated corticosterone). Seabird species that feed largely offshore conformed to the brood value hypothesis whereas inshore feeding species showed less significant changes. Land birds mostly revealed no differences in the adrenocortical responses to acute stress from year to year with the exception of two small species (<18 g) that had an increase in baseline and stress responses in the ENSO year – contrary to predictions. We suggest that a number of additional variables, including body size and breeding stage may have to be considered as explanations for why patterns in some species deviated from our predictions. Nevertheless, comparative studies like ours are important for improving our understanding of the hormonal and reproductive responses of vertebrates to large scale weather patterns and global climate change in general.