Abstract Colies are one of the phylogenetically oldest groups among the modern birds; the earliest finds are from about 35 million years ago. In states of energy deficiency they can undergo torpor during the night when metabolic rate and body temperature are decreased drastically to save energy (up to 90%). Here, we report the first measurements of heart rate (HR) by long-term telemetry, in seven individuals of blue-naped mousebirds ( Urocolius macrourus); simultaneously and continuously metabolic rate (MR) was determined. HR at night was about 20% below the range of expected values (246/310 bpm). Mean oxygen pulse (O 2 output/stroke) in normothermic birds was in a range of 0.019–0.020 ml O 2/stroke; during torpor nights this value decreased significantly to 0.0086. Mean cardiac output ranged from 724 to 1214 ml blood/kg per min; in torpid birds this value fell to 400 ml blood/kg per min. Cardiac regulation of metabolic demand within an activity phase (day or night) is mainly achieved by chronotropy. Inotropy contributes at most 25% to the differences in MR between day and night (ca. 40%). Entry into torpor is brought about mainly by changes in HR (decrease from 240 to 90 bpm); after torpor levels have been reached, there is an increase in HR (to 200 bpm) and a sharp decrease (−53%) in stroke volume. This regulation by inotropy is also characteristic of arousal from torpor.