In nestlings, glucocorticoid (GC) secretion has short-term and long-term f itness consequences. For example, short-time elevations trigger begging activity, whereas chronically elevated GC levels impair body condition, growth and cognitive abilities. Despite a growing body of literature on personality traits, the effects of selection for fast and slow exploration on GC secretion have received little attention. We compared baseline and stress-induced hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity of hand-reared great tit nestlings of lines selected for fast and slow exploration. Nestling droppings were collected under three conditions: control, test (following handling stress, day 14 after hatching) and the following day. The concentrations of excreted immunoreactive corticosterone metabolites (CM) were determined via an enzyme immunoassay. We also observed nestlings' begging behaviour. CM differed significantly between the lines. Nestlings of the fast line excreted lower CM than slow-line birds. In response to handling stress, nestlings excreted significantly higher concentrations of CM than during the control and on the day after handling. Sex and begging activity were not related to CM levels. Under the control condition, but not after handling, males begged significantly more often than females. In both lines, adults excreted significantly less CM compared to nestlings. Both nestlings and adults of the slow line produced higher baseline CM values than fast-line birds. Fast-line nestlings excreted lower baseline CM than nestlings of a wild population not selected for fast or slow exploration. Slow-line nestlings did not. Our results show that selection on the basis of exploratory behaviour affected HPA axis reactivity.