For group-living animals, the maintenance of a position in the social hierarchy may be associated with physiological costs such as increased stress and energy expenditure or suppressed immune functions. In this study, we experimentally manipulated the social status of house sparrows so that each bird experienced two social environments in random sequence: being dominant and subordinate. For 14 males, we investigated how corticosterone concentrations, energy expenditure and immune functions were affected by these changes in social status position. We found that the cost of maintaining a social status position differed between individuals and were related to individual body size. Birds with small body size had increased costs in terns of increased stress responses and reduced cell-mediated immune responses while being experimentally kept as dominants, while birds with large body size had increased costs while they were subordinates. We also found that birds with increased energetic and immunological costs as dominants obtained a low status position in the large group, while birds with increased costs as subordinates obtained a high status position in the large group. In summary, we found that the costs associated with the maintenance of social status position differed between individuals and was related to the individuals' body size. Furthermore, in a large group, individuals maintained a social status position that minimized energetic and immunological costs. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.