Earliest known English usage in 15th century in The Life of St Katherine by J. Capgrave. Used in 13th century Latin (Plus valet in manibus avis unica quam dupla silvis "...in the woods", rather than "...in the bush"). However, a much older Near Eastern origin is suggested by a near equivalent in the 6th century BC Proverbs of Ahiqar: 'a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying'.
Latvian: labāk zīle, kas man ir rokā, nekā mednis, kas vēl sēd kokā/ labāk zīle rokā, nekā mednis kokā(rather the titmouse that is in my hand than a wood grouse that is still sitting in the tree/ rather a titmouse in hand than a wood grouse in a tree)
Rumi: yang kejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran, harapkan guruh di langit, air di tempayan dicurahkan