I am not sure what I am seeing in this photo. My understanding is that the mantle and scapular feathers are small feathers in multiple tracts which cover the shoulders and upper back of the bird. The impression I am getting from the photo is that there is a layer of feathers on the upper back which can lift up off the back. (Since the bird is landing I assume that this layer aids the bird to remain upright.) I can't seem to locate any discussions/descriptions of the phenomena.
Great_Black-backed Gull_7273n by Grandpa577, on Flickr
Great Black-backed Gull
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