A fundamental challenge facing physiological ecologists is to understand how variation in life-history at the whole-organism level might be linked to cellular function. Thus, because tropical birds have higher annual survival and lower rates of metabolism, we hypothesized that cells from tropical species would have greater cellular resistance to chemical injury than cells from phylogenetically related temperate species. We cultured dermal fibroblasts from 26 tropical and 26 temperate species of birds and examined cellular resistance to cadmium, H2O2, paraquat, thapsigargin, tunicamycium, methane methylsulfonate, and UV light. By ANCOVA, which assumes each species as an independent data point, we found that the LD50 (values for the dose that killed 50% of test cells), from tropical birds were significantly higher for H2O2, and MMS. While, using a generalised least squares approach accounting for phylogenetic relationships among species to model LD50, we found that cells from tropical birds had greater tolerance for Cd, H2O2, paraquat, tunicamycin and MMS than cells from temperate birds. While for thapsigargin and UV light, tropical birds showed lower tolerance and no difference from temperate birds, respectively. These findings are consistent with the idea that natural selection has uniquely fashioned cells of long-lived tropical bird species to be more resistant to forms of oxidative and non-oxidative stress than cells from shorter-lived temperate species.