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All animals must transform ambiguous sensory data into successful behavior. This requires sensory representations that accurately reflect the statistics of natural stimuli and behavior. Multiple studies show that visual motion processing is tuned for accuracy under naturalistic conditions, but the sensorimotor circuits extracting these cues and implementing motion-guided behavior remain unclear. Here we show that the larval zebrafish retina extracts a diversity of naturalistic motion cues, and the retinorecipient pretectum organizes these cues around the elements of behavior. We find that higher-order motion stimuli, gliders, induce optomotor behavior matching expectations from natural scene analyses. We then image activity of retinal ganglion cell terminals and pretectal neurons. The retina exhibits direction-selective responses across glider stimuli, and anatomically clustered pretectal neurons respond with magnitudes matching behavior. Peripheral computations thus reflect natural input statistics, whereas central brain activity precisely codes information needed for behavior. This general principle could organize sensorimotor transformations across animal species.