City officials, hoping to humanely thin a flock of pigeons that has overrun the San Clemente Pier, plan to feed the birds birth control chemicals.

Some 250 of the birds have taken up residence on the pier and are causing problems for the half-million people who visit it each year, Lynn Hughes of the Department of Marine Safety said."They mate for life and basically do a daily round of feeding, watering, nesting and resting. The result of that is we have a real mess with their deposits on the pier deck," Hughes said. "It's really creating an interference as well as a potential health hazard.

"The staff has been holding its own as best we can to wash down and scrub the pier, but that's treating the symptom and not finding the cure," he said.

He said each bird eats about a pound of food each week.

"You're talking about 250 pounds a week that gets recycled onto the pier," he said.

Hughes' department investigated several options, and the one that won the City Council's unanimous approval Wednesday night was the temporary sterilization through treated feed.

Hughes said a pest control company will be hired to stock special feeders with whole-kernel corn treated with a chemosterilant called Ornitrol, which temporarily prevents the birds' eggs from becoming fertile. The population should be down to 50 to 70 birds in two years.

Hughes said the bait trays will be positioned where seagulls and other birds on the 1,200-foot-long pier will not eat the corn.

Most people believe cutting down on public feeding would make the birds leave, but Hughes said it would create a law enforcement problem instead.

"We realize this is a tradition . . . to come down with bags of day-old bread," he said. But stopping that practice "would be starving them or causing them to be malnourished and as a result, more diseased."