In this article we provide an overview of five case studies of initiatives using the image of White Stork as a focal species. Our case studies are preceded by a short overview of existing approaches to achieve broader environmental goals through species conservation and a review of the social, ecological and social-ecological importance of White Stork. With the use of the above, we investigate linkages, complementarity and friction between the ecological, social and social-ecological perspectives on focal species, and eventually propose a framework for a more multi-targeted approach. The proposed concept of a social-ecological keystone species recognises social-ecological system complexity and goes beyond traditional divisions into ecological and social. Our approach extends the cultural keystone species concept to tie into new spheres – modern societies with more indirect connections to nature as well as indigenous communities, and all forms of human relationships with other species, not just for consumption – and to explicitly include the ecological significance of a species. Apart from serving as a potentially highly useful conservation proxy, a social-ecological keystone species emerges as a vehicle for ecological literacy, expanding from an interest in a species to learn more about the system of which it is part. White Stork, with its long history of coexistence with humans and many linkages with specific cultural practices offers an excellent example for discussing the broader social-ecological relevance of species in establishing meaningful connections to nature.