DNA sequencing of the nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacers (ITS) and mitochondrial rrnS and cox2 genes, and analysis of polymorphisms in restriction profiles in the ITS and rrnS, were used to characterise anisakid nematodes belonging to Contracaecum Railliet & Henry, 1912 infecting the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Galveston Bay, Texas and Sarasota Bay, Florida. Molecular data led to the detection of two new species: Contracaecum fagerholmi n. sp., which was also supported by clear morphological evidence, and Contracaecum rudolphii F, a new cryptic species within the Contracaecum rudolphii Hartwich, 1964 complex. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that C. fagerholmi and C. rudolphii F form two well-separated clusters, with C. fagerholmi being closely related to Contracaecum bioccai Mattiucci et al., 2008 and C. rudolphii F being included in the C. rudolphii complex. C. fagerholmi can be readily differentiated morphologically from all of its congeners, other than C. microcephalum (Rudolphii 1809) and the five currently recognised members of the C. rudolphii complex (C. rudolphii A, B, C, D and E). C. fagerholmi differs from C. microcephalum in the length of the spicules and the shape of the distal tip of the spicules, and from C. rudolphii (sensu lato) in the shape and size of the ventro-lateral and dorsal lips and by having interlabia which are not distally bifurcate. Further studies are needed to determine which morphological characteristics can be used to distinguish the cryptic species of the C. rudolphii complex in order to assign them with formal names. The recovery of a third species, C. bioccai, from the brown pelican confirms its occurrence in this host and extends its known geographical distribution.