But there's a problem with the saying: it doesn't mention the fortunes of the later bird. In reality, rival birds can turn up pretty much whenever they want and still get a decent feed - as long as they hit the right spot and employ the right techniques. After all, there are plenty of worms to go round.
As in nature, so in business - being first certainly doesn't guarantee success. For every triumphant early arrival such as Amazon, eBay and Coca-Cola, there's a Yahoo - or an IBM, a company that got its feathers plucked despite taking off ahead of its rivals. Pampers, Google and the iPod, meanwhile, were slower off the perch, but landed on a tastier breed of worm or hit upon a smarter way to grab them.
In fact, there are more than 20,000 different varieties of worm, from hookworms and earthworms to other larvae not technically worms but casually considered such - for example, glowworms and woodworms. With an understanding of these creatures and their habits, any bird will stand a good chance of filling its stomach. Hence the habit of 'worm charming': stamping on the ground, perhaps to simulate rain, to encourage the prey up from the soil. It's the kind of practice that should be familiar to marketers everywhere.