The series was conceived by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and originally written by Chuck Dixon. Gail Simone scripted the comic from issue #56 to #108. Sean McKeever was originally to replace Simone, but McKeever has since decided to leave the project, and will only write issues #113-117; Tony Bedard, who wrote issues #109-112, will become the title's regular writer starting with issue #118. Artists have included Butch Guice, Greg Land, Ed Benes, and Joe Bennett; Nicola Scott began a stint as artist with issue #100.
Despite the title of the series being Birds of Prey, the phrase was not mentioned in the book until issue #86, when one of the group's members, Zinda Blake, suggests that it might be a fitting name for the team. However, the other characters get sidetracked and do not respond to her suggestion. Oracle, the team's leader, refers to the group by that name in a conversation with the new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, and later within the series.
The team's greatest strength comes from other heroes across the DC Universe including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to specialized rosters. After Black Canary's departure, Huntress remains as the staple member and field leader, alongside new "core members." Despite the previously all-female central roster, male allies such as Nightwing, Wildcat, Savant, and Creote frequently assist missions. In addition, Hawk and Dove have recently joined the team, making Hawk its first male member.
The title series began with Chuck Dixon's one shot Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey (which had a cover date of 1996, but the release date was November 1995). Initially, the two heroines featured were Barbara Gordon (formerly "Batgirl") and Dinah Lance (currently "Black Canary"). From the beginning, Canary was written as passionate and idealistic. In an interview with Comics Bulletin, Dixon described this choice as a fertile clash of values: "Dinah's more idealistic approach is at the heart of this book."
When Gail Simone took over the series in 2003, she added the Huntress to the lineup. In her first arc, entitled "Of Like Minds", Simone let Black Canary walk into a trap set by Brian Durlin, known as Savant, and his assistant Creote. With Black Canary now critically injured and chained, Savant begins listing demands, the most significant of which is the true identity of Batman. In the end, Huntress and Canary defeat their enemies, and form a team.
Author Simone commented on the new lineup, saying that each character provided a foil for the two others: "Helena and Dinah respect each other tremendously, and each is capable of great things the other is not. Dinah's not just Oracle's legs, sometimes, she's her conscience, or her muse, or just her best friend. And Oracle is far more to Dinah than just the mission Helena as someone who is not a loner completely by choice. Dinah is so accepting, and so open, that Helena sees an opportunity to be part of something without having to force her way in. There's friction, because once Helena puts the mask on, she's really not very good fitting in. But she likes that they're giving her a chance. Whether she blows it or not, you'll have to keep reading." Simone was appreciative of her work, saying Birds of Prey editor Lysa Hawkins "was looking for a slightly tougher Birds of Prey and asked me to submit a proposal. I have a huge fondness for Babs and Dinah both, so it's a bit of a dream come true. I'm really excited by the art, which is very sleek and sexy, with a nice dark tone, by Supergirl star Ed Benes.
The Huntress later meets Oracle in person for the first time while rescuing her from a potentially life threatening situation during the "Sensei & Student" storyline. The US government had become aware of the existence of Oracle and formatted a list of suspects to interrogate, one of whom was Barbara. Without any form of due process, two federal agents imply they believe she is the Oracle and that if any evidence is brought to light she will be tried for treason against the United States of America. Once again, Oracle relies on the Huntress when no other allies are available.
While Oracle and Huntress share a long history of animosity with one another, Black Canary eventually inspires Oracle to employ her as a full-time agent. The budding friendship is cut short during the "Hero Hunters" arc. In the final issue of the storyline, the Huntress realizes Oracle has been manipulating her psychologically in order to make her "behave" properly, in the same way a teacher attempts to reform a troubled child. Despite Oracle's remorse for her actions, Huntress temporarily departs from the group. She later rejoins the team, once again as a full-time agent along with newcomer Lady Blackhawk. Although the personnel on Oracle's team grows and changes, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk remain core agents.
When Birds of Prey approached the century mark, Simone used issues #99 and #100 to shake up the lineup. She let Black Canary leave the team with her ward, a little girl called "Sin", and used a prison break arc to introduce superhumanly strong Big Barda, pacifist Judomaster, and rascally Misfit into the new squad, and with the new Spy Smasher as an ambiguous Jack Bauer-like anti-heroine and Lois Lane cornering Oracle into almost giving away her secret identity. Again, the characters were chosen to provide a foil for each other, and affirmed her love for her characters: "The team is a group of individuals, quite unlike the friendship between Dinah, Helena, and Babs. And any team with Barda on it automatically has a certain bull in a China shop tremble, and I love that... The characters don't apologize for being asskickers, nor for being smart, nor for being sexy, nor for being sexual, for that matter. There are always going to be some people who find that not to their taste, but at the same time, Birds of Prey regularly brings in people who don't otherwise read mainstream comics, a whole audience that may not pick up any other superhero titles, and I love that niche, that little area between good taste and utter shamelessness." Finally, Simone stated her agony of leaving the book: "I miss the characters in all the books I've worked on. Writing the last issue of Birds of Prey I'm doing was actually physically painful."
After Simone's departure to sister title Wonder Woman, Sean McKeever wrote Birds of Prey from issues #113 to #117. McKeever used his short stint to pit a new incarnation of "Blackhawk" villain Killer Shark against ex-Blackhawk Zinda Blake and to introduce the location of Platinum Flats, called by IGN "the Silicon Valley of the DC universe and a hotbed of white-collar crime committed by mysterious villain 'The Visionary'." IGN called his short stint "enjoyable" and creative. His writing deeds were taken over by Tony Bedard, who stated in a Comic Book Resources interview that he liked the concept of Platinum Flats. Bedard wants to mix the concept of 21st century white-collar crime with 1930s mob families and has stated that Oracle is his favorite Birds of Prey character.
DC canceled the series in February 2009, with the "Oracle: The Cure" mini-series beginning publication the following month as part of a company-wide reorganization of Batman-related titles.
On January 13, 2010, DC announced the return of the Birds of Prey title for the spring, under the "Brightest Day" banner. Gail Simone will again write the series with Ed Benes providing the artwork. Hawk and Dove have been confirmed as members of the new team as well, with Oracle playing a strictly supporting role. While in Singapore in December 2010, she announced, in an interview with the newspaper Straits Times, an intention to create a Singapore superheroine.
In July, writer Marc Andreyko and artist Billy Tucci will temporarily take over the title for a fill-in issue about the original Black Canary and Phantom Lady. Manhunter, a former Birds of Prey member created by Andreyko, will appear as well.
DC Comics is planning to relaunch Birds of Prey with issue #1 in Fall 2011. Novelist Duane Swierczynski will replace Andreyko as the writer, while Jesus Saiz will handle the art. Swierczynski will be introducing a new member of the team named Starling in the first issue.
- Oracle (Barbara Gordon) — Barbara is the leader of the Birds of Prey. She was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of an ambush by the Joker while she was Batgirl and reinvented herself as Oracle with the Suicide Squad. She possesses an information network, a photographic memory, and extreme hacking and programming skills. Barbara is also a skilled hand-to-hand fighter and a master in weaponry, though she is rarely shown in a physical fight; she usually directs the team remotely.
- Black Canary (Dinah Lance) — a tough, but good-natured and idealistic streetfighter who is the Birds of Prey's star character. Barbara and Dinah are close friends (Barbara having helped Dinah through low periods in Dinah's life). In addition to her superpower, an ultrasonic attack known as the "Canary Cry", she is also a highly skilled martial artist. She departed the team in issue #99, and returned in issue #1 of volume 2.
- Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) — vigilante. Prone to use of excessive force, this former mafia princess was devastated at a young age when her family was killed in a mob hit. Trained by her assassin cousin in the art of violence, she declared war on the mob in the name of justice. Following Black Canary's departure, Huntress became the team's field commander. She was also the second crimefighter to go by the name Batgirl.
- Dove (Dawn Granger) — a strong-willed but calm young woman, and the avatar of peace. A former member of the Teen Titans, Dove was granted superhuman strength, durability, and reflexes by the Lords of Chaos and Order and used them to fight alongside Hank Hall. Following the events of Blackest Night, Dawn was invited to join the Birds.
- Hawk (Hank Hall) — a violent and conservative young man, and the physical avatar of war. Granted superhuman abilities by the Lords of Chaos and Order, Hawk fought crime alongside his brother Don and later Dawn before being driven insane by the wizard Mordru and becoming the villain known as Extant. After his murder at the hands of Atom Smasher, Hank was resurrected during the events of Blackest Night. During the Brightest Day crossover, he was offered an invitation to join the team.
- Lady Blackhawk (Zinda Blake) — time-displaced 1940s character, Zinda serves as the team's aviatrix and pilot of the Aerie One and Two. She is an expert marksman, well trained with handling various types of firearms.
- Big Barda (Barda Free) — a New God from the planet Apokolips and former member of the Female Furies and later member of the Justice League. Her husband is Justice League International member Mister Miracle (Scott Free). The character was killed off in Death of the New Gods, and officially recognized within this series in Birds of Prey #112. She was later revived at the end of the Final Crisis.
- Black Alice (Lori Zechlin) — a magically powered anti-heroine who can temporarily borrow the powers of other magic users. It has been inferred that she is a blood relative to Misfit, though Gail Simone, the creator of both characters, has denied blood relation between the two since returning to the series.
- Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) — A former Justice Leaguer with a crush on Barbara. Kord is murdered in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and the main characters visit his grave in Valhalla Cemetery in Birds of Prey #96.
- Catwoman (Selina Kyle) — A feline-styled anti-heroine, Selina has cooperated with the team on several operations, the most notable of which was a starring role in the Birds of Prey: Manhunt mini-series.
- Cassandra Cain — The daughter of assassin David Cain and Lady Shiva, she is her mother's equal as a martial artist. In current DC continuity, Cain was the third crimefighter to call herself "Batgirl".
- Creote — A former KGB agent, Creote is a devoted servant and only friend to Savant; in his earliest appearances, his devoted love for his master was a secret. In a 2010 storyline however, Barabara outed Creote and his feelings to Savant and the two became an item.
- Gypsy (Cindy Reynolds) — Gypsy debuts at the end of Birds of Prey #92. She is a metahuman and her powers include creating illusions, camouflaging herself, and others near her, to blend into any background.
- Hawkgirl (Kendra Saunders) — Oracle first solicits her assistance in issue #104 in dealing with the Secret Six, for which Oracle rewards her with a car. Throughout the Russian arc, Hawkgirl serves as a team member and develops a rivalry with Secret Six member Scandal.
- Infinity — Made her debut in issue #120, and described by Oracle as a "new operative" in #121, though it is implied she may have been working for Oracle prior to her first appearance. Infinity has the ability to make her body intangible, but not much else is known about her. In issue #125 Infinity reveals to Huntress she can read the residual memory of a corpse as long as its brain is intact and that she has to make physical contact for that power to operate. Huntress asked where her phasing ability originated and was told it was due to a curse.
- Jade Canary (Sandra Wu-San) — The assassin more commonly known as Lady Shiva took Dinah's spot on the Birds of Prey team as of "One Year Later", calling herself the Jade Canary. After the conditions behind the switch she arranged with the Black Canary had been met, she departed from the team. In a final act, she acquired a new apprentice to train, in the form of Bethany Thorne, Crime Doctor's daughter.
- Josh — A rental car agent who bargained with Huntress — information in exchange for a date. After reluctantly agreeing and (surprisingly) sleeping with him, Huntress has used Josh as an agent in some of her easier tasks against the mob.
- Judomaster — In issue #100, a new female Judomaster joins the Birds of Prey after being invited by Oracle.
- Katana — Katana assists in rescuing Oracle from Senator Pullman. Oracle gave her a card and the promise of a favor if ever required.
- Manhunter (Kate Spencer) — In issue #100, Manhunter joins the Birds of Prey after being invited by Oracle, following Canary's resignation. She has stayed on as a core member. Kate Spencer is a vigilante of a more violent sort that her teammates. In her civilian identity, she is a federal prosecutor who became sickened to see criminals escape punishment via the judicial system. Using stolen weapons, Manhunter elects to hunt down and if necessary kill supervillains herself.
- Misfit (Charlotte Gage-Radcliffe) — teenage orphan with teleportation powers, her persistent appearances (first as a wannabe Batgirl and then as Misfit) are initially a nuissance to Oracle, although Barbara's attitude gradually softens. After Barbara discovers her homelessness and personal tragedy, she formally invites her to become a member of the Birds. As of Birds of Prey vol. 2, #1, she is no longer a member of the team and now lives with a foster family.
- Nightwing (Dick Grayson) — Dashing crimefighter and the original Robin, Dick enjoyed a mutual teenage crush on Barbara that once blossomed into a steamy romance, but has crumbled despite continued strong feelings on both sides. Recently, Barbara and Dick reconciled. As they did, Dick dropped to one knee and proposed; a tearful Barbara said, "Yes." As of "One Year Later", the engagement has been mutually put on hold.
- Power Girl (Karen Starr, also known as Kara Zor-L) — Power Girl was Oracle's first operative, before she took in Black Canary. This first partnership was doomed since Power Girl was unable to save a shipload of people. She has worked occasionally with Oracle in subsequent episodes but the two have a very poor relationship; she was invited to return to the team in issue #100 but stated she would do so "when Hell freezes over", despite begrudgingly appearing before and since to assist Oracle. The animosity between them parallels the traditional Batgirl/Supergirl friendship.
- Savant (Brian Durlin) — Spoiled heir to an enormous fortune, Savant moved to Gotham to become a self-styled vigilante. After kidnapping and brutally torturing Black Canary, he was defeated by the Birds. Oracle made the questionable decision to rehabilitate him, mainly in order to keep his data files on hundreds of real villains. Like his namesake, he is a genius; however, due to a chemical imbalance he exhibits a non-linear memory. Savant has also exhibited feelings for Oracle, probably rooted in his envy of her computer skills. Later, however, he is shown to reciprocate Creote's romantic feelings for him as well.
- The Secret Six — Following their initial appearance, members of the Secret Six have appeared repeatedly in Birds of Prey. The team composed of Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Knockout, and Harley Quinn act as foils to the Birds on one shared mission. Catman and Huntress are potential romantic interests, Scandal finds an enemy in Hawkgirl, and Barda and Knockout have a longstanding rivalry.
- Spy Smasher (Katarina Armstrong) — An old college rival of Oracle's, Spy Smasher boasts a significant number of government and intelligence connections which she uses to manipulate Barbara. Trying to usurp Oracle's team, the two come to confrontation over the status of the Birds of Prey. She is also an expert marksman.
- Vixen (Mari Jiwi McCabe) — An international supermodel and former Justice League and Suicide Squad member, Mari was born in Africa. She inherited her family's "Tantu" totem, a necklace granting the wearer the ability to channel the skills/abilities of any animal. Vixen has been a field agent for Oracle, accompanying Huntress to the Pacific Northwest to stop a meta-human worshipping cult.
- Wildcat (Ted Grant) — Former professional boxer and current member of the Justice Society, Ted serves as a mentor to Dinah and has helped her on several missions.